Toyota unveils four cars in one
Toyota has broken away from traditional vehicle design and engineering to produce a visionary concept that combines four cars in one.
The innovative Toyota ME.WE can be configured as a small city car, off-roader, ute and convertible, making it adaptable to a wide variety of lifestyles.
The five-seat electric concept car is positioned as an intelligent, no-frills response to the ecological threats posed by mass production and the growth of the global car fleet.
A joint venture between Toyota and leading European industrial designer Jean-Marie Massaud, the car’s name reflects a simultaneous concern for individual freedom (ME) and responsibility towards society (WE).
The goal was ‘‘intelligent reduction’’ — better accommodating the automotive needs of people by eliminating excess in a package that reconciles driving pleasure with environmental responsibility.
The ME.WE uses lightweight, robust and recyclable materials — a tubular aluminium structure, body panels made from expanded polypropylene, and bamboo for the floor and dashboard.
Inside, passengers always take priority over luggage, which can be carried on the roof, protected by a neoprene cover.
The rear luggage space can be extended, transforming it into a platform like that of a ute; the car can also provide the ‘‘wind-in-thehair’’ experience of a cabriolet by opening all the windows, including the windscreen.
Instruments are limited to a single screen above the steering wheel that indicates vehicle speed, battery charge, trip information and navigation instructions delivered by a smart phone.
The smart phone itself is mounted below the screen and allows occupants to create their own personal environment with music and other apps, as well as controlling the cabin air temperature.
Minimalist bench seats, also constructed from expanded polypropylene, can be removed and used for a picnic.
Simple design is matched by ease of use: it has an electric motor in each wheel like the recently unveiled Toyota i-ROAD and its batteries are located under the floor, as with the Toyota iQ electric car. The ME.WE provides two or four-wheel drive, giving it the ability to cope effectively with different terrains, some of which may be inaccessible to a traditional car.
But it is much lighter than conventional 4x4 vehicles: Toyota says the Yaris-sized car could weigh as little as 750 kg — a minimum weight saving of 20 per cent compared with a conventional car in its class.
The body panels weigh just 14 kg — a saving of around 180 kg compared with the use of steel.
Expanded polypropylene is strong and has better thermal insulation properties, resulting in less use of the car’s electric heater and airconditioning system.
Toyota’s European design and development HQ, ED2, and Massaud, a noted architect and inventor, have pooled their expertise and used existing technologies to produce a realistic concept car.
Toyota says there are currently no plans for the ME.WE concept to enter production.
For a full rundown on any Toyota vehicle, call into Shepparton Toyota, Melbourne Road. Or call the showroom on 5823 1301.